For anyone flicking to the bottom of the page expecting a four out of ten or something, prepare yourself: Charlotte Hatherley's new record is not shit! It's pretty alright, actually! There are weird and interesting songs on there that are better than most of the cock-rock swill Ash seem to have been producing after Free All Angels! Wow!
Leaving her companions in Ash to get on with spoiling their first three albums by dancing soullessly between irony and inappropriate histrionics, Hatherley stands a fair chance of becoming as much of a critical darling as Tim Wheeler ever was, thanks to this much more considered approach to songwriting. From the John Barry-esque opening mooch-along of 'Cousteau', we are privy to sensibly constructed, sweetly honed and slightly sinister pop music. While the melodies may not be quite as strong as they should be, leaving corners unturned and furrows unploughed somewhat, the sheer irresistibility of the conjured atmospheres are clever enough to hold the interest.
She seems just as happy doing the pretty soundscaping thing as she is doing Toyah Wilcox mini pop-punk on 'I Want You To Know', which Avril Lavigne will hopefully hear and decide not to challenge. But it is the slower, prettier, more thoughtful tunes where we get see Hatherley stretch her legs a little. Oddly enough, it sounds rather close to the maligned experiment/meltdown Ash record Nu-Clear Sounds, but done properly. 'Wounded Sky' potters around with bongos and calypso guitars before seeping out into full on wooze and luxuriant horn swells. It's quite lovely, actually.
The Deep Blue never fully takes off, some songs are a little dull and lacking in charm, and it needs a fucking great single, but for now Hatherley is proving that she learnt some lessons in Ash about writing good pop music, and picked up some techniques along the way that Steven Drozd might claim for his own. Swampy instrumentals and big-thinking space ballads are entertainment enough 'til someone inevitably hails her the female Brian Wilson and she has to prove it.
6Daniel Ross's Score